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Safe at Home

p>With gun ownership comes responsibility. Every keeper of firearms is obligated to ensure the safety of his household, while taking every precaution to prevent an intruder from accessing weapons. The only certain way to accomplish both goals is with a high technology gun safe. The best safes will also serve to protect the weapons while they’re in storage.

There are a number of factors to consider in choosing a gun safe. Two of them are capacity and size. A small safe is adequate for a handgun or two. But if you’re investing in a safe, it’s good to consider what other things you might wish to protect. For example, irreplaceable documents and valuable possessions are best kept in secure storage. So you may want to think beyond the size of your firearm collections when choosing a safe.

Of course, if you own long guns, a small safe is out of the question. Some newer safes are configured to maximize the number of long guns that can be stored with racks that permit alternate rows of barrel up and barrel down storage. Many of these safes have padded floors in order to protect the barrel or stock. Some gunsmiths recommend barrel down storage in order to prevent leakage of contaminants from damaging a wooden stock.

Most modern safes allow the removal and repositioning of shelving and racks in order to optimize the storage area. It’s a good idea to plan carefully and consider future needs before making a purchase. While your firearm collection may be limited today, you don’t want to curtail future expansion by choosing a safe that can’t accommodate new acquisitions. Dunham’s offers an extensive variety of secure storage devices in all sizes and shapes, from small personal lock boxes to large floor standing safes that can store more than forty firearms, so you’re sure to find a safe that matches your requirements.

Fire and water protection is also a consideration. Fire protection has become standard among better safes, but the degree of protection can vary. An ETL rating is your best assurance of quality fire protection. A Dunham’s sales representative can explain the rating system and help you determine how much protection you need. Waterproof safes are a more recent development. Some new safes offer protection in up to two feet of water.

Various locking mechanisms are available. Many of today’s safes are equipped with electronic locks that open by means of a keypad rather than a dial. The commercial grade electronic locks used on the best safes are extremely secure and reliable.

Securing and protecting your stored guns is a critical responsibility. Not only will proper storage provide peace of mind for you and your family, it will protect your expensive firearms as well. And nothing offers better security and protection than a modern safe.

-Deer Abby

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Muzzleloading Offers Unique Hunting Challenges

p>Daniel Boone may not recognize many of today’s muzzleloading rifles but he could certainly relate to what makes black-powder muzzleloading hunting one of the fastest growing shooting sports in America.

The basics of muzzleloaders have not changed with the time. Today there are two basic types of muzzleloaders used for hunting — traditional and in-line. Both are based upon the premise that the shooter pours powder down the end of the gun barrel, and then rams a slug or ball down on top of it to load the gun.

Traditional muzzleloading firearms include reproductions of sidelock, flintlock and percussion long guns.  In-line rifles that use modern inventions such as a closed breech, sealed primer and fast rifling to allow for considerable accuracy at long ranges.

Something that has not changed with time is the unique challenge of hunting with a black-powder muzzleloader.

Muzzleloading hunters typically fall into one of three categories: the frontiersman, extended season and the ultimate hunting experience. Each presents a hunting challenge and opportunity you can’t match with modern rifles.

Back to Basics

The frontiersman is someone who enjoys recreating the early American hunting experience. We are talking about wearing buckskin clothes, sleeping on the ground by a fire and the up-close hunting skills needed to effectively use the long guns of the American frontier.

Hunters getting back to the basics of a “patch round ball” rifle are accurate between 75 and 150 yards. Hunters using a replica of a percussion rifle used by sharpshooters during the Civil War can be accurate up to 200 yards . . . with a lot of practice.

Extended Season

Many hunters have joined the black-powder ranks because it offers an extended hunting season.  Muzzleloader season in many areas starts before hunters using conventional weapons can get started. Another advantage is that muzzleloaders frequently have access to prime hunting areas that are off limits to modern weapons.

Ultimate Hunting Experience

Some may view muzzleloading rifles as having limitations with a single shot, limited range and reduced velocity. For many experienced hunters, these are attributes that make black-powder hunting a unique experience.

Muzzleloader hunters know they can easily bag their limit with a modern weapon. These hunters relish the challenge of having to get close without being detected and bringing home the trophy with a single, precise shot. Black-powder hunters take pride in mastering the limitations imposed by a muzzleloader because it makes the hunting experience far more rewarding than using a conventional weapon.

Load and Aim

Muzzleloader calibers range from old .36 and .40 caliber flintlock squirrel rifles to .68 caliber muskets used for warfare. Most flintlock and caplock guns today are .50 or .54 caliber, with an occasional .58 caliber rifle. The minimum size elk rifle is .50 caliber, and .54 certainly hits harder. The biggest in-line muzzleloaders are .50 caliber, with the occasional .45 caliber rifle used for deer and smaller game.

While close range hunting is one of the appeals associated with muzzleloaders, many people still have questions of accuracy. In truth, the accuracy of today’s in-line muzzleloaders rivals most modern weapons up to 200 yards.

A big reason for the improved accuracy is in-line barrel design. Manufacturers such as Bergara Barrels use computerized technology to manufacturer affordable barrels that rival custom made designs. The accuracy of Bergara Barrels is so impressive that CVA, the nation’s leading manufacturer of muzzleloaders, has made them standard on CVA’s highest grade guns.

Like any rifle, a clean barrel improves accuracy. One thing to keep in mind is that all the cleaning tools you buy will cost a fraction of replacing a ruined barrel. Here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Buy a good quality rod with a ball bearing, rotating handle so the brush and patch can accurately follow the twist in the barrel. This action allows for efficient cleaning of the bottom of the groove, especially in the corner where the groove meets the land.
  • Buy brushes with brass wire cores. Steel cores can damage your barrel should one bend or otherwise go awry while in the bore.
  • Buy a good quality brass jag for each caliber rifle you own. Whether you “wrap” or “pierce” the patch is up to you, but keep your jag clean. Grit that gets embedded in a soft brass jag acts like a file if it contacts the delicate inside of your bore.
  • Most solvents currently on the market will do a great job. Follow the directions on the chemicals container carefully. NEVER mix types of solvents as undesirable chemical reactions can occur.
  • Patches should be cotton or cotton flannel only. Cheap synthetic patches do not absorb solvents and carry away the fouling you are trying to clean out of your barrel.

Having a clean muzzleloader is something even Daniel Boone would appreciate.

-Deer Abby

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DRESSED TO KILL — BUYING HUNTING APPAREL

Hunting is a very generic term covering a lot of wildlife and a lot of geography. There’s deer, elk, ducks, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel — the list goes on and on. You can hunt in forests, prairies, swamps, cornfields or mountains. It can be 90 degrees in September or 20-below in December.

Which is why it is so important to choose clothing based on the type of hunting you do, where you do it and when you do it. “The biggest mistake most people make in buying hunting clothes is to try to have one suit fit everything,” says Rocky Brands. “I can hunt within a 30-mile radius of my home, but that includes a lot of different kinds of hunting. Plus, weather is a big factor. You don’t want a parka in the hot days of fall.”

Choices, Choices, Choices

The type of hunting you do will be a big factor in your wardrobe. Upland hunting of pheasant and small game requires a lot of walking, so mobility and flexibility will be very important. All that walking will keep your body warm, so you likely won’t need as much insulation as when you’re sitting in a blind waiting for deer to come to you. Duck and geese hunters spend a lot of time near water, so water repellent materials are especially important.

Temperature will be a major factor in choosing clothing. In the early hunting seasons, warmth isn’t much of a factor — staying cool on hot afternoons is more of the problem. But as November approaches, bitter cold and snow mean keeping warm is a priority. Deer season in the Midwest can be very cold, so insulation is key. Thermal underwear provides an excellent base and there are numerous pants/parka/bib combinations that can keep you toasty in that deer blind. You don’t want just bulk, however, so be sure you can move around comfortably. The better the combination of warmth and movement, the more you are likely to pay.

If you need some extra heat there are plenty of artificial sources. Battery-powered socks and gloves will warm away the iciest chill, as will hats, muffs and hand warmers. Foot warmers include insoles with a heating element that will kick in when exposed to open air and provide up to 5 hours of heat.

Of course how you feel at 6 a.m. and how you feel 8 hours later after tromping around when the sun is out are two different situations. That’s why layering is important. Look for jackets, vests, raingear and hats you can take off when the temperature rises.

These Boots are Made for Hunting

Most hunters spend a lot of time walking, so comfortable boots are critical. That starts before you leave the store to make sure everything fits right. “The right fit is important in any clothing, but especially so for boots,” says Irish Setter. “After all, you don’t get blisters if your pants are too tight.”

Irish Setter suggests looking closely at the linings inside the boot. If they are loose they can become folded or wrinkled and very uncomfortable. If you do a lot of upland hunting you are more likely to accumulate mud on the soles, which can make a 2-pound boot feel like an 8-pounder. In that case look for a freer sole with a less aggressive cleat pattern. Of course, all boots are going to collect dirt and mud which can act like cement and absorb water. At the end of the day take a damp rag and remove that debris and then apply a leather care product.

Helping the Hunt

The whole purpose of hunting is to make the kill. And while your personal comfort is important, you also need clothing that will help (or not detract from) the hunt. That’s where two key issues come into play — noise and scent. Depending on material, some clothing is just noisier. If you can hear your pants when walking through the store, don’t you think that deer will hear it too?

Because animals have such a highly developed sense of smell, it’s important to mask your human scent. It’s especially important for bow and muzzle hunters who need to get very close to their prey. The “de-scenting” process can start with clothing that includes materials which absorb the human scent. Charcoal is an excellent filter and a thin layer of it within the fabric will help you mask your presence.

How you clean your clothes can also mark your presence in the field. Floral detergents are not good and scented fabric softener is the ultimate no-no; Dunham’s carries scent blocking laundry detergent and fabric softener.

There are also a number of different odor neutralizers/attractants you can use. Commercial odor neutralizers are typically sprayed, rolled or washed into garments prior to a hunt, while attractants are used on wicks placed around the hunter or dispersed on local vegetation. Cover scents are natural odors that mask the human scent and do not alarm the animal. These techniques all work well singularly or combined, so try different methods to see which fits you the best.

-Deer Abby

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HUNTING HORIZONTALLY

Crossbow hunting has gained tremendous popularity in the last few years. Not only are state laws much less restrictive for crossbows, but the actual mechanics of the weapon mean more people can use a bow for hunting. And it’s not just disabled people who don’t have the power to draw the string on a vertical bow. The aging of America is helping to popularize crossbows. “As the nation gets older, more people don’t have the strength for a traditional bow,” says Barnett Crossbows. “That has meant a much bigger audience for our product.”

A Long and Rich History

Crossbows have been around before firearms and have a distinguished history in warfare. They are referenced in Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War in the fifth century B.C., and they were important in ancient Greece and throughout the Middle Ages. Traditional longbows required a great deal of strength and years of practice to master, but crossbows could be adapted quickly by a large peasant population, greatly increasing the offensive resources available to a medieval militarist. The power of the medieval crossbow is perhaps best illustrated by Pope Innocent II’s 1139 decree that it was a sin to kill a Christian with the weapon (but non-Christians were fair game).

While today’s hunting crossbows are much more sophisticated than their medieval ancestors, the fundamental mechanics are similar. Crossbows have a shorter draw length than vertical bows, requiring a greater draw force to store the same amount of energy; hence the need for a mechanical cocking device. Crossbows can be kept cocked and ready to shoot for some time, with little effort.

Recurve Versus Compound

There are essentially two types of crossbows. Recurve crossbows have tips that curve away from the archer, with a longer draw length than equivalent straight bows. A more modern design, and more popular today is the Compound crossbow that uses pulleys that are both round and concentrically mounted to capture maximum available energy from the short draw length. Compound designs tend to be more compact, quieter, and cause less wear on the trigger and locks. Recurve designs are lighter and the string is easier to replace.

Crossbows are surprisingly versatile in the field. They can be used on large and small prey. While the mechanical aspect of a crossbow makes it relatively easy to shoot an arrow, the killing distance for a crossbow is not significantly longer than for a traditional bow. Crossbow hunting is like all archery — it requires superior tracking skills to get close enough to the prey for a humane kill.

Important Accessories

The very nature of a crossbow requires special accessories for effective hunting. Arrows are specially sized and weighted for the dimensions of a particular weapon, although when buying a new crossbow that’s no problem — the correct arrows are included.

Sights are important for a crossbow because the hunter needs to gauge the effect gravity will have on a shot. The farther the arrow travels, the more it will drop. Multi-retical sights use multiple lines on the sight, while red dot systems use a series of dots. They both provide a gauge to measure depth and distance of a shot.

Crossbows are significantly noisier than vertical bows, which can be a problem when you have to get very close to what you are tracking. Higher end models include anti-vibration features that minimize noise. Standalone anti-vibration features can also be purchased.

Make Sure It Feels Right

Crossbows have become highly sophisticated weapons, with many choices, features and price ranges. As with virtually anything these days, there is plenty of information available on the Internet. Barnett Crossbows says doing your homework is important, but there’s another critical step. “You really need to hold the product in your hand,” she says. “Go to the store, feel it, touch it and make sure it’s the right size and shape for you. It’s a very personal choice, and you want it to be right.”

-Deer Abby

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Getting Cozy with a Crossbow

Used correctly, the crossbow is an accurate and reliable weapon.

 

Riding a wave of relaxed hunting regulations and good results in the field, the crossbow has become the weapon of choice for many hunters. “The crossbow market is still growing,” said Jackie Allen of Barnett Crossbows, “and we’re happy to be part of it.”

 

The crossbow’s surge in popularity is good news because it enables more hunters, but crossbow hunting is not something that should be rushed into without preparation. Like all weapons, a crossbow is only as accurate as the man or woman releasing the arrow.

 

Crossbow Basics

 

Hunting with a crossbow requires stalking capability, because you must get within 40 yards of the prey. But crossbow hunters have an advantage over bow hunters in that the crossbow can be pre-cocked, so when a deer is in range, the mechanics of shooting are less likely to spook it.

 

Two types of crossbows are in general use today: compound and recurve. Both offer advantages. A compound crossbow is capable of generating more energy, but a recurve crossbow produces less vibration and is quieter. A recurve crossbow can be serviced in the field if the string breaks, while string replacement on a compound crossbow is more complex.

 

Shooting either type of crossbow is a matter of drawing the string until it locks into place, loading an arrow, releasing the safety and pulling the trigger. Crossbow arrows — sometimes called bolts — are shorter and heavier than standard arrows. As with all weapons, a steady hold is essential.

 

A crossbow should never be fired without an arrow loaded. Doing so can damage the bow. It’s also important to use arrows of the size and weight recommended by the crossbow manufacturer to ensure good performance.

 

While many crossbows make excellent hunting weapons, some are easier to use than others. The Quad 400 Xtreme is one of the most hunter-friendly compound crossbows available and is capable of delivering a 400-grain arrow at a speed of 345 feet per second. It’s available at Dunham’s in a package that includes a 4×32 multi-reticle scope, a quiver with three arrows, and a crank cocking device that makes it possible for hunters who can’t draw a bowstring to enjoy crossbow hunting.

 

Like all crossbows, the Quad 400 Xtreme is equipped with a safety that engages when the crossbow is cocked. Never release the safety until you’re ready to fire and the bow is pointed safely. It’s also important to make sure that no fingers are in the bowstring’s path. Upon release, the string moves with abundant energy and can cause severe injury.

 

Achieving Accuracy

 

Many factors affect accuracy, including damaged arrows, misaligned sights or scopes, hunter technique, and mechanical defects. When shooting with a recurve crossbow, it’s important to achieve an even draw when cocking. In other words, if one of the crossbow’s limbs is displaced more than the other, the arrow won’t fly true. A compound crossbow will generally draw equally if it is in good mechanical condition, but care should be exercised when cocking.

 

Crossbow hunters should do some target shooting before going out in the field. This will not only allow time to achieve a smooth and steady release, but will also provide an opportunity to sight in your weapon and compensate for arrow drop over distance.

 

All crossbows have a sighting system that compensates for drop at a specific arrow speed and range, usually 20 to 50 yards. This compensation allows you to aim directly at your target. When the arrow leaves the crossbow, it drops continuously until it reaches the target. So a properly calibrated sighting device will cause the arrow to leave the weapon on an upward trajectory when you aim directly at your target. The arrow will then travel in an arc and arrive at the target.

 

Since arrow drop is continuous, the sighting adjustment is only correct within a specific range. But many sighting devices are gauged with multiple reference points that allow accurate aim at varying distances. Some scopes display reticles, essentially lines, while others use dots. A three-dot scope, for example, might be set up for accurate targeting at distances of 20, 30, and 40 yards. Range-finding reticle scopes are equipped with a scale that allows you to measure distance from target before selecting a reference point.

 

Sighting-in your scope is critical and best accomplished with a stationery target and the arrow you’ll use in the field. All scopes have an adjuster for windage, which determines the targeting accuracy left and right of center, and another for elevation, which dials in targeting above and below center.

 

Begin by shooting from 10 yards away to make sure you’re in the ballpark. If your results are close to target center, move out to 20 yards away. If they’re not even close, your scope might be incorrectly installed or way out of adjustment. At 20 yards, you should be able to achieve a tight grouping of three shots within a 3-inch circle.

 

If you can’t achieve a tight grouping, there’s no point in twisting adjustment screws. You should practice your aim and make sure you’re shooting with a smooth motion and steady grip. Once you achieve a tight circle, you can tweak the adjustments to position your grouping of arrows at the target center. If your group of three arrows is consistently to the left or right of the bulls eye, you should turn the windage adjustment to compensate. Similarly, if the group is above or below the bulls eye, you should turn the elevation adjustment to compensate. Then retest and make further adjustments if necessary.

 

If your scope has multiple reticles or dots, you should dial in the top line or dot for your minimum shooting distance, then the other dots or lines will serve as targeting marks for longer distances. So if the top dot of a three-dot scope is adjusted for accuracy at 20 yards, the two lower dots may well be accurate at 30 and 40 yards. Test and verify. The extra time on the range will serve you well in the field.

 

Staying on Target

 

A crossbow can only deliver like-new accuracy when it’s well cared for. Your maintenance routine should include checking for worn strings or cables on a regular basis. If either the string or cables of a compound crossbow show wear, it’s best to replace both. As your string stretches, your arrow speed will decline and the targeting calibration of your crossbow will suffer, so replacing the string on a regular basis is recommended.

 

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for care of your crossbow. They should include instructions for lubricating the rail in which the arrow rests and instructions for waxing the string and cables. Make sure all screws and fasteners are secure on a regular basis, but don’t muscle them down.

 

If your scope adjustment is maxed out and your shots continue to land to the left or right of your target, you’re either cocking your crossbow unevenly or the bow’s limbs are not providing equal tension. The limbs of a compound crossbow can usually be adjusted by means of a tiller adjustment screw on each limb. If the limbs of a recurve crossbow provide unequal tension, the only recourse may be replacement.

 

-Deer Abby

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